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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae

25. Fritillaria Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 303. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 144. 1754.

Fritillary [Latin, fritillus, checkered, alluding to the markings on the tepals of many species]

Bryan Ness

Herbs, perennial, bulbose; bulbs with 1–several large fleshy scales and 0–many small scales (often called rice-grain bulblets). Stem 1, erect, simple, absent in nonflowering individuals. Leaves alternate or whorled proximally in some species, sessile; blade linear to ± ovate; nonflowering individuals with single elliptical, ovate, or obovate “bulb-leaf.” Inflorescences loosely racemose, bracteate; bracts leaflike. Flowers 1–many, usually nodding, 3-merous; perianth hypogynous, campanulate or cupulate; tepals 6, in 2 similar whorls, distinct, nectaries present on all tepals, but better developed on inner ones; stamens 6, included; anthers adnate to filaments near middle; ovary superior, ± sessile; style unbranched or 3-branched. Fruits capsular, 3-locular, 6-angled or -winged, thin-walled, ± rounded, dehiscence loculicidal. Seeds many, in 2 rows per locule, yellowish to brownish, flat. x = 12, 13, often with chromosome fragments.

Species ca. 100 (20 in the flora): Northern Hemisphere.

A number of Fritillaria species are grown as ornamentals, although North American species can be difficult to grow and many have not been tried. Most require well-drained soil, full sun, and no summer watering. Native Americans used the bulbs of various species as food, typically roasted, sometimes dried for later use.


Beck, C. H. 1951. Fritillaries: A Gardener’s Introduction to the Genus Fritillaria. London. Beetle, D. F. 1944. A monograph of the North American species of Fritillaria. Madroño 7: 133–159. Farrens, B. M. 1947. A Taxonomic Study of the North American Species of Fritillaria. M.A. thesis. Stanford University. Marchant, C. J. 1981. Fritillaria in British Columbia. Davidsonia 12: 19–25. Rix, E. M. and D. Rast. 1975. Nectar sugars and subgeneric classification in Fritillaria. Biochem. Syst. & Ecol. 2: 207–209. Santana, D. O. 1984. Morphological and Anatomical Observations on the Bulbs and Tepals of Fritillaria (Liliaceae) Section Liliorhiza (Kellogg) Watson, Their Taxonomic Implications with a Synopsis and the Reproductive Biology of the Section. Ph.D. dissertation. University of California, Davis. Stapf, O. 1934. Lilium, Notholirion and Fritillaria. Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1934: 94–96. Turner, N. J. and H. V. Kuhnlein. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): Two liliaceous “root” foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecol. Food Nutr. 13: 199–219. Turrill, W. B. 1950. Character combinations and distribution in the genus Fritillaria and allied genera. Evolution 4: 1–6. Turrill, W. B. and J. R. Sealy. 1980. Studies in the genus Fritillaria (Liliaceae). Hooker’s Icon. Pl. 39.

1 Style unbranched or rarely with branches shorter than 1.5 mm; tepals never scarlet.   (2)
+ Style obviously branched, branches longer than 1.5 mm; tepals sometimes scarlet.   (5)
2 (1) Tepals shorter than 2 cm or, if longer, then yellow to orange.   (3)
+ Tepals 2 cm or longer, white to pink or pinkish purple.   (4)
3 (2) Leaves whorled proximally; tepals pinkish to purplish; s California.   5 Fritillaria brandegeei
+ Leaves subopposite to scattered; tepals yellow to orange; n California to British Columbia, e to Wyoming.   16 Fritillaria pudica
4 (2) Tepals pinkish purple, obovate, apex rounded to acute, not recurved; flowers not noticeably fragrant; n California.   15 Fritillaria pluriflora
+ Tepals white to pink, oblanceolate, apex acute to apiculate, usually recurved; flowers fragrant; s California.   19 Fritillaria striata
5 (1) Tepals red or scarlet, sometimes to maroon or purplish, clearly checkered or mottled, apex usually recurved, sometimes only spreading.   (6)
+ Tepals sometimes mottled or rarely scarlet, but never both, apex not recurved, only rarely slightly recurved.   (7)
6 (5) Perianth slender; tepal apex usually strongly recurved, nectaries ¼ tepal length or less; style branches ± erect; n California, s Oregon, w Nevada.   18 Fritillaria recurva
+ Perianth broadly campanulate; tepal apex spreading, not recurved, nectaries 1/2 tepal length; style branches widely spreading; s Oregon.   9 Fritillaria gentneri
7 (5) Leaves more than 10 or in whorls of 2–6(–9) per node proximally, blade linear to narrowly to broadly lanceolate to rarely ovate.   (8)
+ Leaves 10 or fewer and/or alternate, blade sometimes sickle-shaped.   (15)
8 (7) Flowers ± erect, occasionally nodding; distal leaves usually ca. 1/3–1/2 length of proximalmost leaf; leaves often longer than inflorescence; only in California.   14 Fritillaria pinetorum
+ Flowers nodding or occasionally spreading; distal leaves usually ± equaling proximalmost leaf; leaves usually shorter than inflorescence; more widespread.   (9)
9 (8) Tepals purplish brown, mottled yellow or white; leaves 2–3 per node proximally; 1000–3200 m, especially inland mountains.   3 Fritillaria atropurpurea
+ Tepals greenish white, greenish yellow to red, purplish, or nearly black, mottled or not; leaves usually more than 3 per node proximally; 0–1800 m, especially in coastal mountains.   (10)
10 (9) Tepals dull greenish yellow, dark-dotted, nectaries widely elliptic to ± diamond-shaped, paler than tepals; s California.   13 Fritillaria ojaiensis
+ Tepals greenish white, pale green or greenish yellow to red, purplish, or almost black, sometimes mottled, nectaries lanceolate or linear, variously colored; s California to Alaska.   (11)
11 (10) Tepals pale green to almost black, not mottled, nectaries ca. 1/2 tepal length, green; small bulb scales 0–4; s California.   20 Fritillaria viridea
+ Tepals greenish white, pale greenish yellow to red, greenish brown to purplish, or pale yellowish green, sometimes mottled, nectaries variously colored, less than 1/2 tepal length (nearly equaling tepal length in F. camschatcensis, but very narrow and obscure; to 2/3 tepal length in F. affinis); small bulb scales usually 10 or more, rarely fewer; c California to Alaska.   (12)
12 (11) Tepals usually 2 cm or longer, often clearly purple- or yellow-mottled.   (13)
+ Tepals usually shorter than 2 cm, mottling absent or faint.   (14)
13 (12) Tepals clearly purple- or yellow-mottled and small bulb scales 20 or fewer, or tepals not mottled and bulb scales 50 or more; nectaries lanceolate, to 2/3 tepal length; flower odor not unpleasant.   1 Fritillaria affinis
+ Tepals dark greenish brown to brownish purple; small bulb scales 30 or more; nectaries obscure, linear, ± equaling tepal length; flower odor unpleasant.   6 Fritillaria camschatcensis
14 (12) Style branches barely recurved; tepals greenish yellow to red, apex usually flared to slightly recurved, nectaries green, gold, or yellow.   7 Fritillaria eastwoodiae
+ Style branches strongly recurved; tepals purplish to greenish white, apex not flared or recurved, nectaries greenish white, dotted purple.   12 Fritillaria micrantha
15 (7) Tepals clearly mottled; small bulb scales usually 10 or more, rarely fewer.   (16)
+ Tepals not clearly mottled; small bulb scales fewer than 10.   (19)
16 (15) Leaf blade sickle-shaped; flowers erect; San Francisco Bay region and s coastal mountains of California.   8 Fritillaria falcata
+ Leaf blade usually not sickle-shaped; flowers usually horizontal or nodding, sometimes ± erect; not in San Francisco Bay region and s coastal mountains of California.   (17)
17 (16) Leaves 2–10, blade ovate, a few sometimes sickle-shaped; tepals white, spotted purple; small bulb scales 0–3.   17 Fritillaria purdyi
+ Leaves usually 4 or more, blade linear to lanceolate; tepals purplish brown, mottled greenish yellow, yellow, or white; small bulb scales 45–50.   (18)
18 (17) Flowers nodding; distal leaves slightly less than or equaling proximalmost leaf, leaves usually shorter than inflorescence.   3 Fritillaria atropurpurea
+ Flowers ± erect; distal leaves usually 1/3–1/2 length of proximalmost leaf; leaves longer than inflorescence.   14 Fritillaria pinetorum
19 (15) Leaves 2–4, blade sickle-shaped.   10 Fritillaria glauca
+ Leaves usually more than 4, blade not sickle-shaped.   (20)
20 (19) Nectaries obscure, forming narrow band 1/2–2/3 tepal length; tepals white, striped green; flowers odorless or faintly fragrant; coastal.   11 Fritillaria liliacea
+ Nectaries prominent, forming narrow band 2/3 to equaling tepal length; tepals brown, purplish brown, or greenish purple at least adaxially; flowers odorless or with unpleasant odor; inland.   (21)
21 (20) Tepals greenish white or yellow abaxially, purplish brown adaxially; flower odor definitely unpleasant; usually in clay depressions.   2 Fritillaria agrestis
+ Tepals dark brown to greenish purple or yellowish green; flowers odorless or sometimes with unpleasant odor; usually on hillsides and mesas.   4 Fritillaria biflora

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